Double Bind In Relationships: From Frustration To Enlightenment
Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. How many times have you said that? Double bind can bring you frustration both in a relationship and in any situation!
“I want you to do what you want, but don’t do it because I told you not to.”
These words have a catch. We all know them. You’ve probably heard it more than once from your parents or partner.
Or maybe you’ve said them before to put pressure on someone close to you.
According to Bateson, a double bind is a communication dilemma that arises from a conflict between two or more messages.
So it doesn’t matter what you do because every decision you make will be wrong.
This is a situation where communication only causes suffering and can even lead to mental disorders.
The double bind theory was developed by anthropologist Gregory Bateson and his research team.
It starts from a systemic perspective and deals with all the situations where you communicate with someone and get conflicting messages.
With this theory, they attempted to explain the psychological roots of schizophrenia, leaving aside theories about brain dysfunction and the body itself.
In normal relationships, we constantly comment on the actions and communications of others by saying things like, “I feel uncomfortable when you look at me like that,” “Are you kidding me?”, or “What are you trying to say?”.
In order to accurately discern the meaning of our own or someone else’s communication, we need to be able to comment on the phrase—but the person with schizophrenia is virtually forbidden from making such a comment.
Double Bind Theory
The double bind theory is based on an analysis of communication, more specifically on Russell’s theory of logical types.
Double bind theory is better understood in the context of complex systems and cybernetics, since both human communication and the mind function similarly to ecosystems.
Based on this theory and their observations of schizophrenic patients, they came up with the idea of the “double bind”.
The double bind theory is a negative phenomenon that occurs in relationships when an important person introduces a paradox that leaves us with no way out.
As you’ve already established, no matter what you do, you can’t win in a double-bind situation.
Although this theory is no longer accepted as an explanation for the development of mental illness, double bonds are ubiquitous in our world and influence us.
These double binds are simultaneously stressful, and confusing and cause anxiety.
They can be harmful to relationships. Paradoxically, in the Buddhist tradition, double-bind situations are seen as helpful in the quest for enlightenment.
Double-bind relationship examples
After these explanations, you may still not understand what double binds are.
In order to explain this “phenomenon”, we will give you a few examples, after which you will immediately understand that these situations have happened to you several times as well.
“Tell me how you feel. Be a man. And don’t be a wimp.”
“Be my protector and provider. you must be strong for me why don’t you show feelings You never say what’s bothering you.”
“Just tell me how you feel. Don’t be so emotional.”
“Just say what you want. Don’t be so demanding.”
When we say something like this, we send mixed signals and messages that only confuse our interlocutor.
Then he or she doesn’t know what to do to make you happy.
With these statements, you want the other person to be tough, but later you get frustrated that that person is no longer showing a soft side.
We can either have our “perfect” partner or we can have an intimate relationship with our partners, but not both.
Then ask yourself the same question about whether you are a perfect match. Certainly not, because nobody is perfect.
When we give each other space to be deeply complex people, we can get to know and love each other better and let our relationships capitalize on each other’s strengths.
Of course, it’s good to talk about what we think is wrong. But that should be said in a different way than sending mixed messages.
Human communication is complex. Since we are all different, our way of thinking and communicating is also different.
And each of us has certainly found ourselves in a situation where mixed messages have been sent.
It’s unlikely to get through life without getting caught in a double bind.
There are many instances where relationships result in a double-bind situation.
However, one situation is familiar to each of us and is considered the best example of a double bind.
It’s jealousy. Most people don’t want a partner who is consumed by jealousy.
When one partner is jealous, the other partner feels constant pressure and doesn’t feel comfortable in the relationship.
At the same time, the person may wonder why their partner is never jealous.
The non-jealous partner may find themselves in a double bind as a result.
The necessary elements for a double bind relationship
Double binds don’t happen every day in a relationship. But they are something that can tear a relationship apart and ruin it.
They lead to frustration, guilt, anger, and many other negative feelings that the other partner can feel when receiving mixed messages.
Double binds also have their special structure, as they can appear in a relationship.
First of all, of course, you need two or more people. One person is always the victim.
Double bind doesn’t always have to be a romantic relationship.
This situation can also happen between mother-child, father-child, etc. These “toxic” statements occur in any type of relationship.
The next “element” is repeated experience. These double-bind experiences occur over and over again in the victim’s life.
These situations may not come up that often, but they shape this relationship from the beginning. Later, the victim gets used to it and behaves as if it were completely normal. But it definitely isn’t.
A negative command is the main element of a double-bind relationship. It also triggers the victim’s negative feelings at the same time.
There are “Don’t do this or I will punish you” and “If you don’t, I will punish you”.
The punishment can be not receiving love or an expression of hate or bitterness.
The worst part is that it can also be the kind of abandonment that comes from parents being completely powerless.
And then there is the first conflict. In the beginning, this conflict is not concrete.
In this case, one often hears the statement: “Don’t take this as a punishment”, although that is certainly one.
And those contradictory statements are those double binds that we’re talking about throughout this article.
Then comes a third command. This is another negative command that prevents the victim from fleeing. However, it might be worth not classifying this command as a separate item.
The negative consequences of growing up in such a relationship
These behaviors in a relationship, no matter what kind, but especially in the parent-child relationship, leave behind many negative consequences.
The contradictory statements block the victim in three areas at the same time, namely thinking, acting, and feeling.
So in these situations, you don’t know what to think, act or feel.
When we are raised in a double bind environment, the effects are felt in our personality, in the way we relate to ourselves and to others.
The first negative consequence is that the victim feels deep personal insecurity.
The insecurity that comes from this attitude means that we trust more and more that others see things “right” and distrust ourselves more and more.
Having grown up with parents telling us things like, “You must be crazy to think that,” it’s easy to understand the problem we face.
The second negative consequence is that the victim feels guilty.
When other people we care about reproach us for not having the feelings we should have, we end up feeling guilty about our “inability” to experience the right feelings, the “true” feelings.
Some parents can express this disappointment with phrases like “after everything we’ve done for you, you should feel happy.”
We start to think that something is wrong with us because we shouldn’t be sad. And that thought makes us even sadder, which makes us even more unworthy, thus closing a vicious circle from which there is no escape.